Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week will have two featured posts that cover very different topics. The first is “Infrastructure, Suburbs, and the Long Descent to Ferguson”. I know, I’ve done a lot of Ferguson posts in the last month. But bear with me: This one uses Ferguson to illustrate the kind of big societal issue it’s hard to get a handle on otherwise.

Following the argument in John Michael Greer’s book The Long Descent, I think the central issue in whether the 21st century will see growth or decline is whether we are productive enough to maintain the infrastructure we inherit. (In Detroit, for example, the answer is pretty clearly “no”.) That in turn depends on how sustainably that infrastructure was designed in the first place, which is the main topic of Charles Marohn’s blog Strong Towns. Marohn argues that the car-oriented suburb is fundamentally unmaintainable, and that after a several-decades-long period of illusory prosperity, most of those suburbs will find themselves unable to support a level of economic activity that keeps the potholes fixed and the utilities running.

That’s where Ferguson is now, and that’s why it has to rely on misdemeanor fines for a substantial portion of its town budget. When the suburban car-culture illusion pops, you’re left with broken infrastructure and residents who can’t afford to move anywhere nicer. Your easiest way to raise revenue is to use the police to squeeze more fines out of the captive population. No wonder resentment builds.

Marohn expects to see a lot more Fergusons.

The second article will be “Is Ray Rice’s Video a Game-Changer?”. I think it is. Seeing domestic violence happen is different than just hearing about it, and I think a lot men who used to make excuses for abusers have had their eyes opened.

The weekly summary starts with a quote that made my jaw drop when I first read it twenty years ago, and the prospect of another Iraq War has made it very topical. The summary will also sample the wide range of opinions on the Apple Watch, point out that the “ObamaCare train wreck” continues not to wreck, and demonstrate once again that the real religious discrimination in this country isn’t against Christians, it’s against atheists. (Muslims too, but the example that popped up this week concerned atheists.)

Expect the Ferguson article around 9, the Ray Rice article at 10, and the weekly summary by 11. (All times EDT.)

The Monday Morning Teaser

How time flies: It’s been ten years since I wrote “Terrorist Strategy 101: a quiz” to explain why Bin Laden’s worst enemies in the Bush/Cheney administration were actually his best friends — they radicalized his base and in exchange he radicalized theirs.

Well, lo and behold, this decade has its own evil insane terrorist superman who will destroy us all unless we get him first: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. And all the same logic applies, as I’ll spell out in this week’s featured article “Terrorist Strategy 101: a review”.

The weekly summary will contain other links to the ISIS story, as well as a discussion of the celebrity nude photo leak, the guilty verdict on the McDonnells, and a number of other short notes.

Expect the terrorist strategy article to post around ten, and the summary around eleven, EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Happy Labor Day. If you have a paid holiday today, thank the unions.

This week’s featured article is titled “5 Lessons to Hold on to as Ferguson Fades into History”, though I’m still monkeying with the wording. Often it seems like the country learns something from a traumatic news story, but then it all goes away in a month or two. Let’s not do that this time.

In the weekly summary, Market Basket gave us a feel-good Labor Day story, Senator Gillibrand’s book has everybody talking about sexual harassment in the Senate, Burger King wants to have corporate taxes its way, Hillary Clinton’s Ferguson statement seems late and weak, and there really is feminist country & western.

I’m aiming to post the 5 Lessons article around ten EDT, and the summary by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s been another week of unusually high traffic at the Sift. Two weeks ago the blog had 71K hits, last week 58K. That’s more than half the hits the blog has had in all of 2014. The reason is “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“, which is now over 100K page views and still running. Last week’s “The Ferguson Test” looks anemic by comparison at 1.9K, but that’s actually pretty good by normal standards.

This week I’m continuing to look at Ferguson, focusing on the different ways of telling the story, and how that affects what you think about it. If you start with the wrong frame, you can believe you’re very well informed and still be getting it completely wrong. The featured post will be “What Your Fox-Watching Uncle Doesn’t Get About Ferguson”.

Ferguson also leads the weekly summary: It came out that Ferguson’s court system is actually a money-making business, and fines — mostly levied against poor people — are a major revenue source. That might have some effect on the faith Fergusonians have in their justice system. Also, the video of an hour-long talk one St. Louis cop gave came out, and it’s scary to picture this guy with a gun and a badge.

This week ISIS and Ukraine/Russia also got a lot of attention. And the heat about the Washington Redskins’ name notched up a couple degrees. But there was good news from my alma mater, Michigan State: transparent solar cells. And we’ll close with seven amazingly creative acts of vandalism from around the world.

Predicting when posts will appear is a little more difficult this week. I’m aiming to have the Ferguson post out around 10 EDT and the weekly summary between 11 and noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Welcome to the hundreds of new Weekly Sift subscribers. The Sift works like this: All posts come out on Mondays. First thing Monday morning, a teaser appears. It’s chatty and previews what I plan to post. Throughout the morning, one or more featured articles come out, and finally the weekly summary with a lot of short notes and links. I try to keep the total word count of all posts (other than the Teaser) down to 3,500. I usually overshoot, but it’s seldom much over 4,000.

It’s been a wild week at the Sift. Last week’s featured article “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party” had the hottest first week in Weekly Sift history. It already has the Sift’s third-highest total pageview count at (currently) a little over 60,000. It’s still viral, with almost 7K hits yesterday. If you were considering sharing it on Facebook, discussing it on your blog, or voting it up on Reddit, I hope you do.

For the first time ever I shut down comments on a post, for two reasons: (1) By Saturday, I couldn’t both keep up with the comments and write this week’s Sift, and (2) commenters were starting to get nasty with each other. I also deleted a non-spam comment for the first time, because its only content was a crude insult against another commenter. I need to rethink my policy, so that I do stuff like this in a coherent way. I want comments, and I have a high tolerance for comments that disagree with my posts, but I also want commenters to feel comfortable and safe. Feel free to make suggestions below.

Anyway, that was last week. This week’s featured post should come out around 10 (EDT). I’m calling it “The Ferguson Test” and discussing how the events in Ferguson give us all a chance to observe the unconscious racism in our reactions. Our conscious opinions about race are one thing, but the way our pre-conscious mental processes frame a racially charged situation is something else.

In the weekly summary (probably around noon; these estimates are never exact) I’ll link to a lot of stuff other people wrote about Ferguson and the week’s other big story, the death of Robin Williams. Hillary Clinton’s attempts to separate herself from the Obama administration’s foreign policy have got me thinking about 2016, which I’ve been trying not to do. In particular: I’m a liberal Democrat, so do I want Clinton to face only token opposition in the primaries, leaving her well set up for a Democratic victory in the general election? Or do I want a strong candidate promoting a more liberal agenda and forcing Clinton left, even if that increases the chances of a Republican win? Or is that the wrong way to look at it?

The Monday Morning Teaser

The featured article this week is something I’ve been working on quite a while: “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party”. For almost two years I’ve been on a reading project that has radically changed my interpretation of American history, and shone a different light on today’s politics. Along the way, I’ve been able to break out some of that work into articles like “Slavery Lasted Until Pearl Harbor“, but today I’m going to try to sum it all up.

The full thesis is that the way you were taught about Reconstruction in high school (or in the movies) is completely wrong: Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War, and when you put the two phases back together, you’re left with a war that looks a lot like Iraq — an initial battlefield victory, followed by a terrorist insurgency against the occupation. Ultimately, the insurgency was successful, and the Confederate social order was restored. In short, the South won.

That victory set up a Confederate pattern of no-holds-barred resistance to social change that has been with us ever since, centered in the South but not strictly Southern. That pattern repeated most obviously in the resistance to the Civil Rights movement, but also in resistance to abortion rights, and in the current Tea Party rejection of all things Obama. The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries.

Along the way, we’ll see where the enthusiasm for guns comes from, as well as the bogus co-opting of the American revolutionaries and the Founders. Scratch the surface of the Tea Party, and it has much more to do with Richmond and Montgomery than with Boston or Philadelphia, and inherits more from Jefferson Davis than from Thomas Jefferson.

As you might imagine, covering all that takes a long time. The weekly summary will be shortened accordingly, and I’ll still run over my usual word limit.

I always underestimate how long it takes to put the finishing touches on a long article, so let’s guess the Tea/Confederate article comes out around 10 EDT, with the shortened weekly summary around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week’s main article is the one I didn’t get finished in time for last week: A look at Paul Ryan’s sketch of a poverty plan. It’s interesting and in some ways creditable that Republicans are finally talking about these issues, but it’s hard to see how they’re going to do anything effective without removing their ideological blinders.

In the weekly summary, I’ll explain why everybody in New England is talking about two cousins battling for control of a grocery chain, what’s worrisome about those deep holes in Siberia, who’s really behind the impeachment talk, and what Congress did and didn’t get done before going away for August. Also: Senator Whitehouse’s global-warming speech, Rep. King’s theocratic musings, and the biggest reason to believe Congress intended health-insurance subsidies to apply to all the exchanges. And in closing, a Portuguese artist who uses operating railroad tracks in his art.

I’m expecting the poverty article to post around 10, with the weekly summary posting around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Tuesday, two judges in the D. C. appeals court tried to sabotage ObamaCare by ruling that people in 36 states aren’t eligible for the subsidies. This week’s first featured article will explain why they said that, why four other judges of equal rank disagreed, and why I don’t think this is going to bring ObamaCare down. Truthfully, this unending series of crises is getting kind of old. It might make more sense to write an article some week when there isn’t a new plot to destroy ObamaCare. That would be news.

The other featured article will look at Paul Ryan’s sketch of a new approach to fighting poverty. Ryan is reminding me of what “compassionate conservatism” really means: It’s how a compassionate person would react if s/he lived in the strange alternate universe described by conservative rhetoric. So yes, if the poverty problem were mainly the result of poor people (through laziness or some other character flaw) failing to take advantage of the marvelous opportunities provided by our perfect capitalist system, then this would be a wonderful plan.

Otherwise, most of the stuff that was happening last week is still happening: the invasion of Gaza, the government wondering where to put the Central American refugee kids, the Russia/Ukraine problem, the dysfunctionality of Congress, and so forth. However, as of yesterday it looked like Democrats and Republicans had agreed on a plan to reform the Veterans Administration which could pass before Congress’ August vacation, though no one is saying what’s in it until a press conference later today.

I’m aiming to have the article on the ObamaCare ruling out by 10 and the Ryan plan by 11, with the weekly summary posting around noon. All times EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week’s featured article focuses on the Gaza conflict, which I punted last week because I was reading a lot more noise than insight and didn’t want to make that situation worse. I originally thought I would have space for a review of Douglas Egerton’s new book The Wars of Reconstruction — I have come to believe that the blind spot Americans have about the period following the Civil War is a major stumbling block in the discussion of current problems¬† — but that will have to wait until next Monday.

I haven’t titled the Gaza article yet, which is an indication of how much work is still to be done, so I make no promises about when it will post. Later today, the weekly summary will discuss the shot-down airliner, the continuing kids-at-the-border problem, my inability to ignore Todd Akin (who doesn’t deserve my attention or yours), what Years of Living Dangerously can teach us about combating science denial in general, and a few other things, concluding with Weird Al’s new video “Word Crimes”. (Finally, something good comes from “Blurred Lines”.)


The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s a Democratic president’s second term and there’s a Republican House, so of course it’s time to talk about impeachment. But first there will be a warm-up, the House’s lawsuit against the President for not enforcing the Affordable Care Act fast enough, which John Boehner hopes will keep the Republican base satisfied until after the fall elections. Sarah Palin, though, has other ideas.

I’ll examine all that — along with the importance of sounding specific but staying vague in right-wing rhetoric — in this week’s featured article, “Boehner’s Lawsuit and Palin’s 25 Impeachable Offenses”. Beyond that, a lot has been going on: the refugee-kids-at-the-border crisis, new skirmishing between Israel and Gaza, a religion professor’s fascinating response to the Hobby Lobby decision, and the dramatic return of Todd (Legitimate Rape) Akin, who now says the only thing he did wrong was apologize. (We missed you, Todd. Please make as many public appearances as possible between now and the election. If possible, could you concentrate on states where Democratic women have close Senate races?)

I’m aiming to have the lawsuit/impeachment article out by ten (EDT), and the weekly summary, “The Other Guys”, by noon.



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